Critical Time for Sailing and the Paralympic Games

Published on April 10th, 2017

When the decision was made by the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) to remove Sailing from the 2020 Paralympic Games, it was a shock to see a sport so perfect for the event no longer be involved.

Few sports level the playing field among able-bodied and disabled people like Sailing. Few activities are as empowering for disabled people as Sailing. Few events provide such publicity for the disabled community as the Paralympic Games.

Since the announcement was made in January 2015, World Sailing has since made it its mission to get Sailing back for the 2024 Paralympic Games. Prominent among the requirements by the IPC to reinstate Sailing for 2024 is participation.

Betsy Alison (USA), who has been the US Paralympic Sailing Team leader, and now chairs the Para World Sailing Committee, reports how vital this summer will be in determining the fate of Sailing and the Paralympic Games.

“The 2017 Para World Sailing Championships on June 20-25 is pivotal in the World Sailing plan to get sailing reinstated in the slate of Paralympic sports for the 2024 Games,” reports Alison. “World Sailing is working closely with national sailing associations (MNAs) to achieve participation by sailors from a minimum of 32 nations at the Worlds in Kiel. This is 32 nation total, not in each class.”

The five classes to compete are the singlehanded Open 2.4mR, Men’s Hansa 303, and Women’s Hansa 303 along with the doublehanded SKUD18 and Weta.

“The US has been reaching out to our neighboring nations in South and Central America as well as the Caribbean to encourage participation and trying to assist with making sure that enough boats are available for them to use,” Alison said. “We know that sailors are interested from Puerto Rico, Guatamala, Argentina, Chile, so far. We also hope that Uruguay will be a first time participant now that they have a fledgling 2.4mR program.”

The challenge in promoting participation has been the lack of national funding for sailors.

“Since the removal of Sailing from the 2020 Paralympics, funding for Paralympic sailors is minimal or non-existent at this time,” admitted Alison. “Cooperative efforts between nations is essential to the success of our efforts.”

Caught in this conundrum is Dee Smith, who represented USA at the 2016 Rio Games.

“At this point I am the only person from the USA that is planning to attend,” notes Smith. “I have been on disability for the last 2 years and really need help to get there and compete, to get the numbers up to get Sailing back in. I am all in to get Sailing back into the Paralympics.”

For information regarding Dee Smith, click here.

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